ASTON >> During practice earlier in the week, as they were preparing to face Sun Valley, the West Chester East players were asked to forget about the last-second loss to Downingtown West last week.
“The coaches told us what it meant if we could win this game,” said junior Jared Cooper, who gained 144 yards on 30 carries and scored a touchdown at Dr. Wally Field Friday night.
East did a lot to make sure it would be playing in November by earning a 28-0 decision over the host Vanguards, who had a higher playoff ranking than the Vikings before Friday’s kickoff.
“This was a real big game for us,” East head coach Dave Gueriera said. “Last week’s game was a real heart-breaker, and I think you saw some of the effects of that in the first half tonight.”
After the first two quarters, West Chester East (4-4) had accumulated 41 yards of total offense while Sun Valley’s halftime number was 67 yards.
The Vanguards got to the East 14 in the second quarter before a fumble, which resulted in a seven-yard loss, halted the drive. Three of East’s five possessions began inside the Vikings’ 25, and another started at the East 27.
“We were looking for someone to make a play,” Gueriera said. “They were doing a good job of pressuring our quarterback. We were playing a team that was scoring 30 points a game, but our defense came up big.”
Sophomore wide receiver Michael Gray made the first big play in the second half for the Vikings after Charles Jacobs fell on a Sun Valley fumble at the Vanguards’ 23. Gray got open on first down, and Johnathan Thompson found him for six points before the second half was two minutes old.
The next East possession lasted 15 plays and almost six minutes. It ended on Matt Erfle’s 10-yard dash into the end zone.
Sun Valley (6-2) was unable to sustain any offensive pressure in the last two quarters. Gray and Thompson teamed up again for a 35-yard score in the third minute of the fourth quarter.
“(Thompson) gets the credit on the first one,” Gray said. “I ran a go (route) and just had to run under the ball. The second one was a great fourth-down call, and all I had to do was run under the ball again.”
Cooper, whose 39-yard run set up Erfle’s TD, got the call on six consecutive plays late in the fourth quarter and scored on a 10-yard run.
“They sealed the edge, and I just had to run by people,” Cooper said. “We knew when we came here that we really needed this game.”
Sun Valley coach Ray Gionta knows that his team needs to bounce back when it visits West Chester Rustin Friday.
“We played well at times, but we stopped ourselves in the red zone in the first half,” Gionta said. “We turned the ball over (two fumbles lost and an interception), which you can’t do in a game that’s as important as this one was against a team that’s fighting for its playoff life.
“The kids gave us a good effort and showed they could compete, but we have to be better in next week’s game.”